Working group appointed to suggest ways to boost civic engagement in Springfield
Recommendations due by the end of 2022
A newly-formed group of people in Springfield, Massachusetts will spend the next few months brainstorming ways to get more of the city’s residents involved in the work of local government.
One of the 15 members of the new Working Group on Civic Engagement, Manny Gomez, pastor of Union Church, said their goal should be to find ways to empower their fellow Springfield citizens.
“Every citizen is important,” Gomez said. “From the person living in the big nice house in Sixteen Acres, to the person living in the shelters, to the people walking down the streets suffering from addiction, if you live in Springfield, you matter.”
City Council President Jesse Lederman announced in August his intention to appoint such a working group. He said there was a “robust response” with many people applying to serve. The appointments were made public earlier this month.
“We need more community voices at the table to solve our city’s greatest challenges and develop the next generation of leaders in the city of Springfield,” Lederman said.
When he launched the initiative, Lederman hoped the working group could propose ways to increase voter turnout for municipal elections and encourage more people to volunteer for municipal boards and commissions and serve on neighborhood councils.
“I fully expect the incredible group of individuals ( on the working group) will identify other priorities and recommendations they believe are important to this mission,” Lederman said.
The working group is diverse in terms of age, ethnicity, and the backgrounds of its members.
Kareen Kibodya, an advocate for the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, was born and raised in Springfield.
“Many of these local races come down to a few dozen votes or so and by increasing (voter) turnout the tide of change we can create in our community is truly something beautiful,” he said.
Erica Swallow, a realtor, was raised in Arkansas, educated in New York and Boston. She said she was drawn to Springfield by its history.
“I have lots of ideas and it is good to see there is all kinds of different backgrounds represented on this group, so I am excited to be part of it,” she said.
The newest member of the City Council, Ward 5 Councilor Lavar Click-Bruce, was appointed by Lederman to chair the working group.
“Civic engagement and involvement improve the quality of life in our city as well as confidence in our government” Click-Bruce said. “I intend to work hard, be a good listener, and report to the President and the full Council the recommendations made by the committee to improve communication, transparency, and accountability.”
Lederman said the working group’s report is due at the end of this year.
“I am really looking forward to the recommendations the working group will bring forward,” he said. “I have great confidence in all of them and in Councilor Click-Bruce.”
City Clerk Gladys Oyola-Lopez and Focus Springfield Community Television Executive Director Stephen Cary are serving as advisors to the working group.